February 7, 2008
By Michelle Manno, Plainview, NY

There’s never been something I couldn’t put into words, an issue I couldn’t tackle, an opinion I couldn’t write down. I’ve always looked to writing as my escape when I couldn’t verbally express myself. Words have always come easy to me, except for now. Finally, an opportunity to write about something worthwhile, for someone other then myself to read, and my mind locks. The last thing I ever wanted to do was give him the satisfaction of keeping him in my life. But, in the end, I knew it was what had to be done. I wasn’t giving him any satisfaction, but rather satisfying myself. In my ability to share this story, I’m growing. It’s never been something I’m entirely proud of, but it’s who I am. I am the child of a broken home, the daughter of a liar and a cheat. But in some sense, I should thank him; because without any of this, I wouldn’t be half the person I am today. Putting my father, or lack there of, onto paper, has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. My father is one of the most influential people in my life, if not the most influential. Thanks to him, I know who I both wish to, and never to become.

I have barely any recollection of being a close-knit family. I was young, 5 years old or so when he made the decision to move out. For months after, my mother hid the truth from my sister and me. She was too scared to hurt us, too full of pride to admit the truth to her two young daughters, and to herself. “Mommy, where’s Daddy?” we would constantly ask her, with responses varying from “He’s working late at work” to “He’s still sleeping, don’t disturb him.” For months this masquerade continued, and for some reason he would play along as well, he didn’t want to hurt us either. Because, you know, deserting your family, your two little girls, isn’t damage enough. Months passed, and we were finally told what was really going on. The two of them sat us down, “Girls, I’m moving away for a while to figure things out, I’ll be home soon, don’t you worry” he said. Everything would be okay. I was in fifth grade when it all started. I had been fighting with my mother all afternoon, which was normal seeing as how I was starting to become an emotional young teenage girl. I stormed up to my room and slammed my door, angry with what was probably a completely ridiculous fight over something like what she was serving for dinner. A little while later I came down stairs, only to see my mother hysterical in the kitchen with my little sister by her side. I felt horrible, I didn’t mean for my petty temper tantrum to upset her that much. It was then that my sister told me, “Daddy just called, he wants a divorce.” I couldn’t begin to describe the way I felt. I couldn’t figure out who I should be angry at, who I should blame. He promised he would come home, and that everything would be ok.

My parents had a very messy, involved divorce. The textbook definition of dysfunctional, if you ask me. For years there were legal battles, custody hearings, child support payments, courtroom after courtroom. The whole ordeal has emotionally, mentally, and physically impacted my mother, sister, and me. From tapped phone lines, to accusations of “brain washing”, to family psychologists, we’ve endured it all. His mark upon me, and the rest of my family, will be permanent. Part of the reason why this is so hard for me to write about, is that throughout the years I’ve blocked so much of it out - my minds own defense system to help cope with the pain. From what I do remember, I tried so hard to not hate him. I convinced myself over and over again that things were okay the way they were, that I was okay the way I was, that what we were going through was normal. Now, thinking back, of course I deemed it acceptable. I had never known what it was like to have a full family. I’ve never known what it’s like to have a dad, to be “daddy’s little girl.” Seeing my friends with their dad’s was a strange experience, and even now - years later - it still stings a little.

""What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger." It’s remarkable how a simple, somewhat overused, eight-word statement is able to sum up my life for the most part. I’ve made it through the whole ordeal in one piece. I’ve been forced to grow up a lot at a young age, but I’m not bitter. In retrospect, I’m actually thankful for all that I have endured. I am who I am because of who my father is. For every mountain, there is a miracle. I came out on top, and I’m proud of the person that I have become. I am my own person; an independent, creative, strong-minded individual with a mind of my own. Yes, it may hurt a little to know that I’ll never have that real ‘father figure’ - but it’s also reassuring to know that I’ve made it this far without one. My head, which was full of doubts, is now clear; for writing this has freed me from him, and all that he is done. So in a way, I guess this is a big thank you, for a large portion of who I am is because of you.

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